Bears Conclude Home Stretch with Tuesday Doubleheader Against UMKC
Missouri State Bears (15-17)
vs. UMKC Kangaroos (23-12)
Site: Killian Stadium (1,200)Location: Springfield, Mo.
Live Stats: MissouriStateBears.comRadio: KBFL 1060 AM
The Missouri State Bears will attempt to snap out of a recent cold spell when they wrap up a five-game home stand with a Tuesday (April 12) afternoon doubleheader against the UMKC Kangaroos at Killian Stadium. The Bears will then head north to Peoria, Ill., where they will meet the Bradley Braves in a three-game Missouri Valley Conference series, Saturday and Sunday.
Missouri State went 2-3 last week with a non-conference road win over Arkansas and a single victory in three games against Creighton. The Bears dropped their seventh game of the season against a ranked opponent, falling to No. 21 Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Over their last eight contests, the Bears have gone just 2-6 thanks to an offensive slump that has limited MSU to no more than three runs in each of those outings. This weekend's trip to Peoria begins a stretch of eight straight road games for Missouri State. The Bears enter the week with a 5-9 record in away games this season.
-The Bears are winless in their last 15 games against ranked opponents following last Tuesday's 10-2 loss at No. 21 Oklahoma State
-Missouri State has dropped four consecutive road games in its series with Bradley and five of its last six to the Braves in Peoria
-The Bears have dropped three of their last four home games against UMKC dating back to the 2008 season
-Natalie Rose leads the MVC with four saves and 144 strikeouts; the junior right-hander is fifth on the Bears' career strikeout list with 343 punchouts
-Kirstin Cutter ranks second in the Valley in hitting (.360) and has at least one hit in 18 of her last 24 games
-Ashley Knehans needs one more long ball to climb into the school's career top 5
-Bears hitters are 0-for-23 this season with the bases loaded
-The Bears are 11-1 in games in which they have out-hit the opposition
-MSU is 10-5 in one-run contests in 2011 after going just 14-20 in such games over the previous two seasons
-As a team, the Bears are batting just .215 with runners in scoring position
-The Bears are 14-3 this year when entering the sixth inning leading or tied with the opposition
-Missouri State pinch hitters are batting .111 (5-of-45) this season
-Madison Hargrove has recorded hits in seven of her last nine games after going hitless in 18 at-bats over the preceding 12 games
-Caitlin Chapin has at least one hit in six of MSU's 11 MVC games and is slugging a team-high .593 with 4 RBIs in conference play
-Ashley Brentz has recorded at least one hit in five of the last six games she has appeared in the starting lineup, going 6-of-16 (.375) in those contests
-Lauren Eisenreich has gone 6-for-12 with 3 RBIs over the Bears' last four games
The Bears will renew their series with UMKC looking to re-establish a pattern of dominance against the Kangaroos. Missouri State holds a 28-6 advantage in the series, but the 'Roos have posted three of their wins versus the Bears during current head coach Meredith Smith's tenure. In its last trip to Killian in April 2009, UMKC swept a doubleheader from MSU and has taken three of its last four games against the Bears in Springfield dating back to 2008.
Missouri State has fared a little better against Bradley in recent years, splitting the last 10 meetings with the Braves. Last year, the Bears took two out of three games from BU to snap a four game slide. The Braves swept the Bears in three games in their last visit to Laura Bradley Park in 2009, then knocked MSU out of the MVC Championship at the EastSide Centre in East Peoria later that same spring.
Scouting the Bears
Missouri State is off to a 15-17 start, including five wins in its first 11 Missouri Valley Conference outings after being tabbed fifth in the league's preseason poll. The Bears, who have dropped seven games to nationally-ranked clubs, return 12 letterwinners and seven regular starters from last year's 21-32 squad that finished in a tie for fourth in the Valley's regular-season standings. MSU is led by a trio of returning All-MVC performers, including seniors Jenna Schwark and Christa Gammon, who batted .358 and .337, respectively, a year ago to rank among the conference's top six hitters. Sophomore Caitlin Chapin also enjoyed a banner year in her debut season for MSU in 2010, clubbing eight home runs to match a Missouri State freshman record. In the circle, junior right-hander Natalie Rose should carry the load once again after finishing 2010 with six consecutive complete games during the Bears' critical run through the MVC Tournament.
Scouting the Opposition
UMKC enters the week with a 23-12 overall record and a 10-5 mark in Summit League play after returning 14 letterwinners from last year's 22-26 squad that finished fourth in the conference. Leading the way for the Kangaroos has been junior outfielder Anna Sokolik, who comes into Tuesday's action with a team-high .413 average and 45 hits. UMKC, which is hitting .297 as a team, also gets a boost from junior Kaelene Curry (.384) and sophomore Emily Ott (.376). Ott leads the club with 26 RBIs, while Curry is one of six Kangaroos with double-digit steal totals, as UMKC has swiped 93 bases in 113 attempts. In the circle, the Kangaroos have posted a 2.73 team earned run average, paced by sophomore right-hander Deanna Friese's 17-6 mark, 1.99 ERA and 170 strikeouts.
The Bradley Braves have struggled to find their groove so far in 2011, entering the week with an 8-31 record after being picked last in the Valley's preseason poll. The Braves are led by junior infielder Julie Sherman's .336 batting average, and senior catcher Kate Singler's four homers and 19 RBIs. BU, which was hitting .242 coming into the week, has gotten a lift from senior outfielder Brittany Fairbairn, who was hitting .314 with a team-high 38 hits and seven steals. The Braves' pitching duties have been divided evenly between three individuals, with junior right-hander Lindsay Hufeld (3-14) posting team-highs for innings pitched (102.1), strikeouts (62) and complete games (12).
Bears Under Holly Hesse
Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, '82) is 584-575-2 (.504) in her 23rd season at Missouri State. Last season, the Bears finished 21-32 and tied for fourth in the MVC regular-season race before reeling off three wins in two days at the MVC Tournament to reach the semifinal round.
Hesse led the Bears to a school-record 40 wins and a berth in the NCAA Tournament in 2006. Hesse's teams have made four trips to the NCAA Tournament (1996, 1997, 1998, 2006) and have won four Missouri Valley Conference tournament championships. She also led the Bears to the Gateway Conference regular season championship in 1992 and the MVC regular season title in 1994. Missouri State's 2006 campaign was the sixth time the Bears have won 30 games in a season, and they enter the 2011 season with an average of over 24 wins per season since her arrival in 1989. The Bears' fourth-place MVC in finish last year marked the 13th time during her tenure MSU has finished in the top-five of the conference standings. Hesse won her 500th career game at Missouri State in a 1-0 triumph over Indiana State on April 22, 2007.
Hargrove Hot Streak
Sophomore catcher Madison Hargrove returned from a four-game absence to continue her recent hot streak at the plate by recording hits in three of her first five at-bats last week vs. Oklahoma State and Arkansas. Those two outings extended Hargrove's hit streak to a career-long six games before she went hitless in three trips to the plate against Creighton Saturday. Over her last nine games, Hargrove has batted .370 (10-for-27) to hike her season average to .238 after going her previous 12 games without a single hit.
Wake up the Bats
The Bears batted just .210 and slugged an anemic .258 as a team in five games last week. In their 17 losses this season, the Bears have hit only .188 (77-of-409), compared to .293 (117-of-399) in their 15 victories. MSU has struggled with runners in scoring position all season, batting just .215 (53-of-247) in those situations. MSU has now played eight straight games without scoring more than three runs. Additionally, the Bears remain hitless in 23 at-bats this year with the bases loaded.
By going 2-1 in one-run contests last week, the Bears improved to 10-5 on the season in such affairs. That mark offers a substantial improvement over MSU's record in one-run games over the previous two years, as the Bears went just 14-20 in those outings in 2009 and 2010.
The Bears were swept in a three-game Valley series for the first time since May 2009 the weekend of April 2-3 at Illinois State. The Redbirds out-scored the Bears 20-4, marking MSU's worst run differential in an MVC series since March 2009, when UNI out-scored the Bears 34-14 over three games at Killian Stadium.
Illinois State clubbed five home runs in their April 2 doubleheader sweep of the Bears, but Ashley Knehans recorded the only long ball in MSU's series finale (April 3) with her second-inning two-run shot. Knehans homer was her first of the season and her 15th as a Bear.
Knehans Joins Century Club
Senior first baseman Ashley Knehans became the 36th Bear to record 100 career hits by going 2-for-3 in MSU's MVC opener against UNI (March 19). Knehans joined fellow seniors Jenna Schwark and Christa Gammon, who each notched their 100th hits last season.
What a Cut-up
Sophomore shortstop Kirstin Cutter enters the week with hits in 18 of the Bears' last 24 games, including a four-game hit streak from March 6-12. The Oklahoma City native is the only Bear to make every start at her position this season and enters the week with hits in three straight games.
Follow the Bears
Live stats for all five Missouri State softball games this week will be available on the Missouri State Athletics web site at missouristatebears.com.
Select MSU softball games will be broadcast live via streaming video on Bears Live, MSU's premium broadband video destination for exclusive live and on-demand streaming content. The subscription-based service will include video and audio courtesy of Meyer Communications for eight regular-season MSU softball contests in 2011.